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Variety Show by Enigmatist

Posted by shirleycurran on 8 Oct 2021

I howled in disbelief as I downloaded a 17 X 13 carte blanche grid with just ‘Clues‘, by Enigmatist. We are used to a Telegraph Toughie struggle every second Friday and know that this will be no piece of cake after last week’s gentle ringing of the Bow bells and the slightly more challenging Vismut orders of bell-ringing the week before.

The ten-line preamble leaves us somewhat mystified (if only I had read it more carefully – but don’t I always say that and never learn?) We did understand that we needed two coloured stripes down the sides of our 57 clues (one solver has said to me “How on earth are they going to fit that into the space in the Times?”) – one for 24 letters ignored in wordplay, that were going to be used ‘along with the (larger-than-life) characters’ to stand for ‘certain letters’ in down entries, and the other for extra letters in wordplay – just 19 of them – that would tell us what to keep in the grid ‘erasing the rest’.

The second set eventually spelled out for us that we were to keep ONLY THE DESCRIPTIONS and the pre-ramble defined those by ‘the characters’ unchecked down cells must be filled to complete descriptions (synonyms of the usual ones)’. That was almost the straw that broke the Numpty camels’ back, as we were still struggling to create or find those synonyms nearly 24 hours after the theme had emerged.

It took long enough for the theme to emerge. Initially I had gleefully realized that INBY, IMPESSED, NESTS and BESTSELLER would conveniently start a corner of the grid , but, of course, we needed to understand that ‘across clues are entered normally’ but down clues ARE NOT! They split up and fill the spaces. Fortunately, we kept a record of those ignored 24 letters (even the 2 Ys in AYE-AYE and both the C and O in ICEBOUND) and eventually, when they all fitted into just five of the columns, understood that we had SCARY, SPORTY, GINGER, VICTORIA and GEMMA – the SPICE GIRLS. The extra five-letter word to be added and the ring prompted us that this must be a Spice Girls cover.

The VICTORIAN clue held us up for a while with just the N in the wordplay. (It shouldn’t have done! I instructed for four seasons in the Mt Buller Ski School and every Wednesday, the boys from Geelong Grammar School came up for ski lessons. It was the school where Prince Charles spent a year. We instructors were invited down there for dinner once a season and on one memorable occasion, a roo bounced on the car bonnet as we drove down. He bounced off again but left a mighty dint!) I have fond Geelong memories.

Enough! We were almost abandoning for want of those synonyms and they were staring at us. But have I forgotten something? The oenophiles! Of course Enigmatist has to qualify – he is due to organise another York gathering of sloggers and betters in October and we know where to find him in his favourite York pub. It was the other Numpty who decided ‘Drink in matter cryptically (5, two words)’ had to be SUP UP and it was in the ODE. So cheers, Enigmatist and thank you for what was probably the most challenging Listener we have ever solved.

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Listener 4676 Back to the Future by Chalicea

Posted by gillwinchcombe on 4 Oct 2021

I’m not sure I can follow Dave Hennings’ blog on Back to the Future, not having the time or skills to undertake research into little-known 15thC manuscripts, but this was my take on the puzzle at the time of submitting it. I observed that Back to the Future was a delightfully balmy breeze after the stormy offerings we’ve weathered recently, and very welcome. It was a joy to fill the grid without constant recourse to Quinapalus, Qat, Bradford’s and my searchable Chambers CD, valuable as those are. I love the variety of Shirley’s subjects and I thought the way she used the “turn” idea in both the extra words and the hidden words in the grid was a nice touch.

I’m glad I spotted the 3 AGAINs, since “the first word of a traditional verse” left rather a large field to explore! At first a snatch of a song came to mind (but not the rest of it unfortunately or perhaps fortunately) before I clocked three times as Dick Whittington.

I see PERNOD makes an appearance – very appropriate given Shirley’s location. Clever title too!

I then went on to say “I hope next week’s is equally accessible – I’m walking Hadrian’s Wall for 8 days which won’t leave much time for solving.” What a hostage to fortune that was! How unfulfilled was my hope. If the early 4670s included some stormy offerings, then Variety Show was a veritable tempest! But enough of that until next week. Thanks Shirley for another enjoyable solve.

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Listener 4675 Called to Order by Vismut

Posted by gillwinchcombe on 4 Oct 2021

Wonderful! I very much enjoyed this perfectly pitched puzzle with its theme that is well suited to crosswords and indeed to all kinds of cryptic conundrums. It evoked good memories of a talk on the mathematics of change-ringing given by another setter, Aedites (Peter Covey-Crump) – it must be 10 or more years ago. I confess I can’t remember the ins and outs but have probably got the notes somewhere!

How refreshing to learn so many fascinating terms – Exploding Tittums – you couldn’t make it up! My brother-in-law and one of his (now grown-up) children ring regularly at their church in Cheshire so now I’ll be able to speak the language. Thank you Vismut for this most enjoyable romp through the world of campanology and for exercising our grey cells with a decoding exercise thrown in for good measure. And for a smile at19dn, with its inappropriate topless beachwear – exquisite!

Then there was the inspired link to Bowie and an earworm that stayed with me for several days, also evoking happy memories. of younger days. A delight all round:-).

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Listener No 4676: Back to the Future by Chalicea

Posted by Dave Hennings on 1 Oct 2021

Time again for a puzzle from the prolific Chalicea. Her last (no. 4601, The Name of the Game) had Brunel’s London to Bristol flat-as-a-billiard-table GWR line as its theme. Not a long preamble this week [Just wait till next week. Ed.] and just fifteen extra words to be discarded from clues before solving.

Not unexpectedly, this was a quick solve, well under the hour. [Just wait till next week! Ed.] Even the endgame was relatively straightforward, although I can see that it might have taken some solvers a bit longer than my two minutes. I think that I was lucky to look in the bottom row and immediately saw NODNOL and, given that we had a hero lurking, I got there straight away.

I guess I was lucky not to think that we might have a Dickens theme, but even the requirement to read the extra words “initially” would, I hope, have enabled me to see what was going on quickly. This especially since their true first letters — saved ti doc leek raw d’oh siri part snot nori pan snug rebut two tin — made absolutely no sense, but reversably gave saveD ti doc leek raW d’oh siri part snot nori pan snug rebut two tin.

All this led to the old rhyme — “Turn again, Whittington” three times Lord Mayor of London with NIAGA in rows 1, 3 and 5 of the grid. Of course, he was more respectfully know as Sir Richard Whittington and had a cat called Tiddles. [? Ed.]

“But wait!” I hear you shout, “What about Chalicea’s penchant in her solving hat for pointing out other setters‘ predilection for alcohol in grid or clues?” With only the puny PERNOD in the bottom row, you may think that she was being comparatively righteous. Sorry to disappoint, but a bit of research uncovered the 15th century Book of Drinking Songs by Gerrard & Turner. It reveals that the original verse began “Tope a gin, Whittington.” Later, that became “Top up agin” and finally “Turn again”.

Nice try, Chalicea!

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Called to Order by Vismut

Posted by shirleycurran on 24 Sep 2021

We were initially puzzled about how we were going to enter our solutions when ‘some answers must be entered at another number’ and even when we had understood that the orders (to be sorted out) were ROUNDS, QUEENS, JOKERS, PRIORY, KENNET, and ROLL-UP, we failed to use that information to see where to place our answers.

Indeed, that was after we had ‘cold solved’ all but four of the clues and had managed to fill the top half of the grid by inverting a couple of clues (EROTIC and CANADA) to fit with RECUSE, A RAVIR and DONING and found, putatively, HIGHLIGHT RINGER OF CHANGES in the unclued answers and assumed that bell-ringing was the theme. That, of course, gave us the placing of our remaining solutions and spelled out the ones we still needed (ACHAGE, ULITIS, MESSES and AGNAME). So our solve really was back to front and it was only afterwards that the Internet told me the order of ROLL-UP, for example (543216) and showed me why I had entered the clues in that set in the order 25, 24, 23, 22, 21, 26. So it was a tough solve for us.

I know nothing at all about bell-ringing but the endgame gave us less trouble. An Internet list had shown us that ARCHERS was an order, so it was easy to see that the R of RINGER had to be inserted into ARCHES and be replaced by its alphabetic neighbour to give SINGER – and who was the singer of CHANGES? (coincidentally my son took his three-year old to Brixton yesterday, and was telling me about the adulation still accorded to their hero DAVID BOWIE).

What a clever compilation, Vismut. Oh, and the Listener Setters’ Toping Elite? No doubt at all that she qualifies: ‘Entertained by drink, Ian or Angela cried “Good health” in Maori (6)’. KIAORA was hidden in there with an extra N. ‘Nancy’s night included casual drink with dope (6)’: the dope was a NITWIT and we extracted a U from NUIT and added W(ith) IT. So “Kiaora, Vismut!”

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